Sambo Doll Analysis

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“But he knew that only in the Brotherhood could we make ourselves known, could we avoid being empty Sambo dolls” (Ellison 427).

The narrator leaves the headquarters of the Brotherhood and finds Tod Clifton playing with Sambo dolls out in the street. He feels disgusted by it and is sickened even more when Clifton starts singing a jingle and makes the doll dance. While singing, Clifton spots a police officer coming towards him, so he starts sweeping his dolls, and prepares to run away from the police. The narrator felt disgusted because the Sambo dolls represent the black stereotype of servitude towards the white race. The Sambo dolls connect to Ellison’s purpose of demonstrating the black experience in America and show how black Americans are still used as puppets just like Sambo dolls. In society, blacks were expected to behave and act a certain way by the white race, and the quote shows how Clifton demonstrated that it was still true.

“For they had the power to use a paper doll, first to destroy his integrity and then as an excuse for killing him” (Ellison 441).

After watching Clifton die, the narrator returns to his office in Harlem and is tormented with thoughts of the Sambo doll and Clifton’s death. He stares at the doll and tries to make it dance, and that’s when he notices that Clifton was making it move with an almost invisible string. Clifton made the doll dance with a black string, and it implied that the only way for the doll to move there needed to be
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